Met Gala 2019: Capturing Camp
The Met Gala is perhaps the most glamorous, invite-only annual event in the spring season. Despite constantly inviting big names from multiple creative industries, the Gala – also known as the Met Ball – is a fundraising event for the benefit of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Headed by Anna Wintour, it heralds the beginning of a new fashion exhibition in the museum, which sets the tone for the attendee’s themed formal dress. Last year, for example, the theme was ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’, giving us Rihanna’s high-fashion papal robes and Katy Perry’s angelic wings.
Not to be outdone, this year’s theme, ‘Camp: Notes of Fashion’ is based on Susan Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay ‘Notes on Camp’.
The term ‘Camp’ is, quite fittingly, difficult to fully identify. Camp embraces the exaggerated, over-the-top and theatrical, but at the same time, ironic, and never takes itself too seriously. For Sontag, it symbolised new attitudes on sexuality, individuality, politics and society. Camp, however, is more widely known and acknowledged as the essential LGBT+ undercurrent in art, fashion and design.
The exhibition pays homage to the cultural and political history of the quintessentially queer POC aesthetic. It features a peek into the role of campy fashion history that illustrates an attempt by curator Andrew Bolton to ‘sit in a corner of a circular room’, tracing this timeline back to Versailles and the queer subcultures of the 19th and 20th century. At the Met, this is Camp: an Alexander McQueen cloak designed by Sarah Burton based on peacock illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley; an original Cristobel Balenciaga dress made of (roughly) three million feathery; a Burberry rainbow cape; a synthetic tulle dress by Giambattista Valli; and the Viktor & Rolf couture slogan gowns from this year’s Paris Couture Week. Camp is not exactly synonymous to queer, but “you can’t have camp without queer”, says Erique Zhang.
As such, LGBT+ and black culture is exemplary of Camp. Co-chairs Lady Gaga and Harry Styles opened the event in amazing fashion – literally and figuratively – with respect to the communities who have labelled them ‘icons’.
Lady Gaga, whose career and presentation is basically a poster image of Camp, had a 16-minute grand entrance, encompassing three changes and four different looks, while Harry Styles graced the steps of the Met with Alessandro Michele in lace, ring-studded fingers and a set of heels to challenge the traditional black suit-and-tie.
Bisexual artist Janelle Monae, award-winning transgender actor Laverne Cox, queer actor Ezra Miller and drag queens RuPaul and Violet Chachki were some of many stunning attendees.
The Gala’s ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’ truly did not run short on notable looks. Camp is reactive, subversive and extravagant, and nothing can be more fitting to the current social, cultural and political tide. The Casper & Casper team have always been excited for the annual event, as it combines our core passion and belief that fashion, art and design don’t always have to be serious to be effective.
Most of the time, they just have to be fun.